Cockermouth

Week In Focus #38

This is #38 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.

  • This week, I have three photographs for you to take a look at, of the lovely, historic town of Cockermouth.

Just outside the Lake District National Park, Cockermouth is located at the mouth of the River Cocker – hence its name. The town is prone to flooding and has experienced severe floods in 2005, 2009, and 2015.

Threatening Clouds Over The River Cocker
Threatening Clouds Over The River Cocker

The town is the birth-place of William and Dorothy Wordsworth and Fletcher Christian, who led the renowned mutiny on the Bounty. John Dalton, the noted scientist and father of the atomic theory, and Fearon Fallows, HM Astronomer Royal, were born in or near the town. It even nurtured the talents of New Zealand-born England all-round cricketer, and World Cup winner, Ben Stokes.

Cockermouth also lays claim to be the first town in Britain to have piloted electric lighting. In 1881 six powerful electric lamps were set up to light the town, together with gas oil lamps in the back streets. Service proved intermittent, and there was afterwards a return to gas lighting.

  • The town is often included in compilations of ‘rude’ place names. A fact which is probably more to do with the minds of those carrying out the research, rather than the actual meaning of the name.

Much of the architectural core of the town remains unchanged since the basic medieval layout was filled in the 18th and 19th centuries. The regenerated market place is now a central historical focus within the town and reflects events during its 800-year history.

Hidden Lane At Cockermouth
A Hidden Lane At Cockermouth

The main town developed under the Normans who, after occupying the former Roman fort, built Cockermouth Castle closer to the river crossing: little remains today of the castle thanks to the efforts of Robert the Bruce. The market town developed its distinctive medieval layout, of a broad main street of burgesses’ houses, each with a burgage plot stretching to a “back lane”: the Derwent bank on the north and Back Lane (now South Street), on the south. The layout is largely preserved, leading the British Council for Archaeology to say in 1965 that it was worthy of special care in preservation and development.

Although Carlisle was considered the county town of Cumberland, Cockermouth shared the county assizes with Carlisle, and prior to the Reform Act 1832 was the usual venue for electing knights of the shire as MPs for Cumberland. Cockermouth borough was also a parliamentary borough from 1641 to 1918, returning two MPs until 1868 and one thereafter.

The town market pre-dates 1221, when the market day was changed from Saturday to Monday. Market charters were granted in 1221 and 1227 by King Henry III, although this does not preclude the much earlier existence of a market in the town. In recent times, the trading farmers market now only occurs seasonally, replaced by weekend continental and craft markets.

Cockermouth Is Full Of Historic Character
Cockermouth Is Full Of Historic Character
Nethertown Beach

Week In Focus #37

This is picture #37 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.

  • This week’s photo was taken on the beach at Nethertown in West Cumbria.

Nethertown is a small village on the Irish Sea coast. At high tide, Nethertown beach is mainly shingle. At low tide a broad strip of sand becomes exposed. Behind the beach are grassy dunes through which runs the single-track coastal railway line. Between the railway track and the beach are a scattering of chalets and beach bungalows.

From the beach there are views over the Irish Sea and Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant to the south. The fells of the Lake District can be seen in the distance. The west-facing beach gets some good sunsets.

During the Second World War, the nearby village of Nethertown was home to an anti-aircraft training camp. The village had its own school, which later became a mission church for St Bees Priory. It is now a private residence.

The community today is predominantly residential and agricultural. There are a number of caravan parks along this stretch of the coast.

Nethertown Beach
Nethertown Beach
Parton

Week In Focus #36

This is picture #36 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.

  • This week’s photo was taken above Parton, on the west coast of Cumbria.

Parton is a village and civil parish on the Cumbrian coast, overlooking the Solway Firth, 1¼ miles (2 km) north of the town of Whitehaven. Formerly a port and a mining centre, it is now purely residential, benefiting from its location between the A595 trunk road and the Cumbrian Coast railway line.

The sheltered anchorage in Parton Bay was used by the Romans, who had a fort on the high ground to the north of the present village, adjacent to St Bridget’s Church. Later, the bay was used by the inhabitants of Low Moresby, the hamlet which grew up to the east of the old fort in the Middle Ages. In Elizabethan times a number of small merchant vessels were based in the bay, trading as far as Chester; by this time there was probably also a salt-pan in operation. The port was developed in the early 17th century to cater for Moresby’s coal trade, but fell into decline after two generations of the Lowther family turned the hamlet of Whitehaven into a major port.

Parton
Parton
Home Of The Whitehaven Rocket Brigade

Week In Focus #35

This is picture #35 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.

  • This week’s photo is of the old Rocket Brigade building at Whitehaven Harbour, in West Cumbria.

The Rocket Brigade don’t exist anymore, but their old home is still in situ, having been repaired with the intention of remembering their heroics in saving lives off the Cumbria coast.

The Whitehaven Rocket Brigade was formed in 1849 when the first shore-to-ship rescue device was bought for the town. The volunteers, who would support the lifeboatmen, would haul the apparatus on a wagon to where a stricken ship was floundering offshore.

The rockets, carrying ropes, were fired out and once received on board, a much heavier cable could be drawn across, facilitating the use of a breeches-buoy to rescue stranded crew and passengers.

Volunteer Brigades worked closely with local Coastguard officers, providing trained and disciplined teams of volunteers to assist in emergency situations; training was overseen by HM Coastguard. The Volunteer Life Brigades were shore-based organisations, trained in ship-to-shore rescue techniques.

Whitehaven Rocket Brigade
Home Of The Whitehaven Rocket Brigade
Watendlath

Week In Focus #34

This is picture #34 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.

  • This week I’ve been wrapped up with various bits and pieces, so have decided to share an oldie with you from 1985. This photo is of a farm house and old packhorse bridge at Watendlath.

Watendlath is a hamlet and tarn (a small lake) in Cumbria. Watendlath is owned by the National Trust and sits high between the Borrowdale and Thirlmere valleys at 863 feet (263 m) above sea level. The name came from Old Norse vatn-endi-hlaða = “water-end-barn”.

  • Pronounced with the emphasis on end – WatENDlath.

Blea Tarn Gill, 700 feet (210 m) above Watendlath Tarn, provides the tarn with its water. Water from Watendlath Tarn flows into the beck of the same name and eventually feeds Lodore Falls, and ends up in Derwent Water.

The tarn is 7 acres (28,000 m2) in size, with a maximum depth of 56 feet (17 m). It was given to the National Trust by Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise, in memory of her brother, King Edward VII.

The traditional Lakeland farm in Watendlath is rented out by the National Trust and, as is the case with Lakeland farms owned by the Trust, the herd of Herdwick sheep are owned by the Trust and not the farmer, changing hands with each tenant. This is part of the National Trust’s policy aimed at ensuring this rare breed’s survival.

The Wise Kings of Borrowdale:

Watendlath’s quiet nook.
A farm is there, and a slated barn,
And a waterfall, and a pebbly tarn;
And all the way to High Lodore
The banks of the beck are painted o’er
With red herb-willow and red loose-strife.

Edmund Casson

Fold Head Farm house was used by Sir Hugh Walpole as the fictional home of Judith Paris in his Herries Saga of four novels published in the early 1930s.

Watendlath Farm & Packhorse Bridge
Watendlath
John Paul Jones Spiking A Whitehaven Cannon

Week In Focus #33

This is picture #33 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.

  • This week’s photo is of a statue of John Paul Jones, the founder of the US Navy. On April 22, 1778 Jones, along with some of his crew attacked the Port of Whitehaven in West Cumbria. It was the last time the English mainland was invaded by foreign forces.

John Paul was born at Kirkbean in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, in 1747. He crossed the solway and began working in Whitehaven as an apprentice to a local merchant. His first voyage was made to America in the ‘Friendship of Whitehaven.’

Later he obtained command of the ‘Betsy of London’ in which he traded to the West Indies. During one of the expeditions to India the crew mutinied due to arrears of pay. This mutiny led to the death of the ringleader of the mutineers. John Paul’s friends persuaded him to flee from Tobago to the mainland. Here he assumed the name of Jones.

In the meantime relations between Britain and the Colonies was approaching a state of high tension. Due to the ineptitude and tactlessness of the British Government war broke out. Jones applied for and received a commission in the Infant Congressional Navy. He was appointed first lieutenant of the ‘Alfred’ and so distinguished himself in his duties that he was put in command of the ship USS Ranger’ on 1st November 1777.

In December of 1777 Jones set sail on a voyage around the British coast with a view to inflicting as much damage as possible on the enemy. Embittered by the events that had clouded his career as a merchant seaman he prepared to wreck the entire merchant fleet at Whitehaven. Prior to John Paul’s raid on Whitehaven his ship, the USS Ranger, was challenged off the coast of the Isle of Man by HMS Revenue Cutter ‘Hussar’ from Whitehaven. Following a brief engagement, the ‘Hussar’ received a hit on the stern and holes in her mainsail, the cutter escaped and returned to Whitehaven where the ship USS Ranger was reported as a vessel with hostile intentions.

On 18th April 1778 he attempted a descent on the town, but was foiled by contrary winds. On the evening of the 22nd he was lying in wait off Whitehaven. His call for volunteers met with poor response, but eventually Jones set out to attack the fleet of 200 collier vessels docked at Whitehaven, but due to the defection of one of his crew, who alerted the town, he was forced to retreat having created very little damage.

Following Jones’ attack on Whitehaven, the effect on the town was great, it spurred Whitehaven into considerable activity in improving its fortifications. The attack also embarrassed the British government immensely, they immediately ordered the Royal Navy to hunt him down. The Navy sent 12 ships to search the Irish Sea for Jones, but success was not forthcoming. Jones eventually accepted service as a Rear Admiral in the Russian Navy, but his career was wrecked by an accusation of rape, which was never proved or disproved. He returned to France, and there he died at the age of 45.

In 1913 his remains were removed to the crypt in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. In 1999, during Whitehaven’s inaugural Maritime Festival, John Paul Jones and the United States of America were granted an official pardon by the people of Whitehaven following events during the war of independence.

John Paul Jones Spiking A Whitehaven Cannon
Statue Of John Paul Jones Spiking A Cannon
Red Campion

Week In Focus #32

This is picture #32 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.

  • This week’s photo is of the Red Campion flower. This flower fills the countryside with a splash of welcome colour in spring and summer.

Red Campion is a biennial or perennial plant, with dark pink to red flowers, each 1.8-2.5 cm across. There are five petals which are deeply notched at the end, narrowed at the base and all go into an urn-shaped calyx. The flowers are unscented. The flowering period is from May to October.

Besides the aesthetic value of its flowers, the crushed seeds of red campion have also been used to treat snake bites!

Red Campion
Red Campion
Oxeye Daisy

Week In Focus #31

This is picture #31 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.

  • This week’s photo is of the lovely Oxeye Daisy. This flower is in bloom around the solstice. The large daisy is a sure sign that summer has arrived.

The plant bears up to three large “flowers” like those of a typical daisy. Below the head is an involucre of glabrous green bracts with brownish edges. Flowering mostly occurs from late spring to early summer.

The Oxeye daisy is native to Europe, and to Turkey and Georgia in Western Asia. It is a typical grassland perennial wildflower, growing in a variety of plant communities including meadows and fields, under scrub and open-canopy forests, and in disturbed areas. The species is widely naturalised in many parts of the world and is considered to be an invasive species in more than forty countries. It grows in temperate regions where average annual rainfall exceeds 750 mm (30 in), and often where soils are heavy and damp.

Oxeye Daisy
Oxeye Daisy
Cogra Moss

Week In Focus #30

This is picture #30 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.

  • This week’s photo was captured while visiting the Cogra Moss reservoir, near Lamplugh in West Cumbria.

Cogra Moss is an artificial water retained by a substantial dam across Rakegill Beck, created as a reservoir about 1880, and discontinued as a public water supply in 1975. It has a pleasant setting surrounded on three sides by Forestry Commission planting.

Cogra Moss
Cogra Moss